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Fred M. Wilcox
At the turn of the century, Duke and Chester, two vaudeville performers, go to Alaska to make their fortune. On the ship to Skagway, they find a map to a secret gold mine, which had been stolen by McGurk and Sperry, a couple of thugs. They disguise themselves as McGurk and Sperry to get off the ship. Meanwhile, Sal Van Hoyden is in Alaska to try and recover the map; it had been her father's. She falls in with Ace Larson, who wants to steal the gold mine for himself. Duke and Chester, McGurk and Sperry, Ace and his henchmen, and Sal, chase each other all over the countryside, trying to get the map. Written by
John Oswalt <email@example.com>
This is hardly an original insight, but anyone who dismisses Bob Hope as the tiresome, unfunny comic from those dreadful '60s 'comedies' he appeared in is missing out on a real national treasure - his films up to around 1952 are hysterically funny, and his ROAD entries with cohorts Crosby and Lamour are among the best of 'em. Hope, along with the brilliant Preston Sturges, had restored Paramount to the comedy throne they'd occupied in the early 30s; from the lavish budget and attention to period detail throughout UTOPIA, it's obvious that the studio was not ungrateful. For my money, ROAD TO UTOPIA is the funniest film he ever made (though there are half-a-dozen others close on its heels). As in all ROAD movies, the engine powering the vehicle was the lightning-quick banter between the two leads; Crosby smooth as snake-oil , Hope perpetually suspicious and cowardly. And with excellent reason, as no straight man ever victimized a foil the way Bing routinely does to Bob. ROAD movies always threaded their satires of B-movie plots (this one spoofing Robert W Service-style frozen-North melodrama) with plenty of topical humor, much of it capitalizing on the fans' awareness of the stars' personal foibles (Crosby's rivalry with Sinatra, his investments in thoroughbreds, Hope's disastrous box-office returns in LET'S FACE IT), and there's a goodly amount of what later generations referred to as 'breaking the fourth wall' ( they talk directly to the audience at varying points). What elevates UTOPIA over the others is the sky-high breezy confidence of everyone involved this go-around. The cast and crew, coming off ROAD TO MOROCCO, were on a roll and knew it and they ride that momentum for all it's worth, Hope's constant kibitzing particularly hilarious from start to finish. Der Bingle gets to groan a couple of subpar songs (as opposed to MOROCCO's highlights - 'Ho Hum' and 'Moonlight Becomes You' - this outing's 'It's Anybody's Spring' and 'Welcome To My Dream' are instantly forgettable) but the team's 'Put It There, Pal' is infectious fun and Miss Lamour's 'Personality' is sexy and sprightly. A further note on Lamour - she's luxuriously beautiful here, an ice-cream sundae with curves (why she's never ranked with the decade's top screen sirens is unfathomable: she's every bit the looker that Lake, Grable, Hayworth & Sheridan were, and a better singer besides). My apologies for not quoting any of the zingers from the script, but there are just too many of them to play favorites with. ROAD TO UTOPIA is well worth the effort it'll take you to track down; get cracking.
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